By  on April 3, 2006

MILAN — There was a renewed interest from American, Japanese and Russian buyers for fall at Mipel, the international leather goods trade fair that took place here last month.

Mipel closed here on March 19 with a 5.8 percent surge in visitors from outside Italy to 14,506, and an 11.9 percent jump in Italian visitors, compared with 8,635 domestic visitors last March.

A strong presence of Russian visitors particularly helped bring much-needed relief to the almost 400 exhibitors at the four-day show as the industry continues to struggle to maintain market share in the face of competition from low-cost countries.

Giorgio Cannara, president of Mipel, noted how the number of Russian visitors grew a hefty 63.6 percent this year, adding, "Over the past few years, Russia has paid ever-increasing attention to Mipel."

Visitors from the U.S. grew 15.4 percent, those from Japan increased 9.8 percent and those from Germany rose 24.9 percent. The data echo upbeat information released last week by AIMPES, Italy's association of leather goods manufacturers, which showed a 9.4 percent increase in sales outside Italy, for a total of 2.2 billion euros, or $2.6 billion, across all categories. In particular, exports of women's handbags grew eight percent in the period, for a total of 1.3 billion euros, or $1.5 billion.

Aware of the tough competition in expanding global markets, exhibitors at Mipel focused on Italian craftsmanship, enhanced by details and embellishments. Handbag shapes were generally large and deconstructed. There were many alternatives to calfskin and suede, such as wool, fabrics, and animal and synthetic fur.

The color palette showed a full range of browns, from caramel to bronze, as well as black and sparks of rich reds, plum and burgundy. Colors and materials often showed a metallic silver or gold streak. Crocodile and mock reptile continue as a strong trend, together with ethnic inspirations based on a plethora of embroideries with sequins, beads and jewel details.

"There are still a lot of sequins, studs and jewels because they are eye-catching and I find that consumers enjoy the shiny effect," said Carla Braccialini, who designs the Braccialini collections.

Braccialini for fall revisited the 18th-century period with the Hapsburgs' coat of arms and that era's decors, showing suede bags embellished with double-headed eagles and jeweled crown.

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